UPDATED: New signings could see Town go 4-4-2 more often

Recent signings Arnaud Mendy and Jonathan Smith mean the Hatters may look to play 4-4-2 more often this season, writes Mark Wood.

By The Newsroom
Saturday, 17th November 2012, 6:30 pm

Personnel has meant the Hatters have relied heavily on adaptations of 4-3-3 after it worked so well at Ebbsfleet earlier in the season.

The Hatters have derived their strength from their attacking options for much of this term, but boss Paul Buckle admitted at today’s press conference the additions of Mendy and Smith have given him more options.

He said: “It’s massive to have two midfielders and certainly Mendy and Smith give me the opportunity now to play a little bit more expansive.

“You can’t have lightweight midfielders in the middle when you are playing with wingers because the opposition will come through the middle of you.

“For example you couldn’t have a JJ (O’Donnell) and a Watto (Adam Watkins) in the middle of the park if you want to go 4-4-2 in my opinion because it’s too lightweight.

“You need to have solid players in the middle who are capable of marking two for three, because a lot of teams play five against us.

“There is a lot of second balls at our level, and you’ve got to be solid in there.

“If you are, and you can be nice and solid, you can then get the ball to the wide men and hurt them.

“So yes it’s something I played when I first came to the club. We played 4-4-2 but at the same time the other night they (Nuneaton) caused us problems actually.

“We tucked JJ in a little bit and the good thing about JJ O’Donnell and (Jake) Howells in fairness is that they’ve both got great understanding of that position.”

On-loan Brighton midfielder Yaser Kasim remains at the club, but looks to have fallen down the pecking order.

“Yaser’s still with us” said Buckle. “I’ve got massive competition in the middle of the park.

“And you’ve seen the energy levels and you’ve seen what it takes to play at this level.

“He’s still fighting for a position in our team.”

Smith will be available for the Hatters against Dorchester in both the FA Trophy and FA Cup and could well prove to be key in the formations that Buckle chooses.

He said: “It’s good now that I think we can play Smith now in the next round and next game of the game of the cup which is good.

“I am desperate to get a settled team on the pitch. At home, we’ve changed because we’ve had to, we’ve fallen behind in games.

“And we’ve found it hard to break teams down so we’ve had to change. We’ve had a good chat about things, we’ve looked at some DVDs and looked at some stuff and now set our stall out a bit different.

“I think you saw a little bit of a different Luton the other night.

“We cleared our lines very well and started the game very well again. We got the ball up the pitch and I thought that (Scott) Rendell and (Andre) Gray played very well together.

“It’s the first time I’d really seen Gray off of a big striker and I thought he looked very good.”

This could result in the Hatters playing with greater width, but Buckle ruled out brining in an out-and-out winger.

He continued: “I think if you bring an out-and-out winger it’s no disrespect to wingers, but if you bring an out-and-out winger he probably won’t do the defensive side for you.

“I think the other night you saw O’Donnell do the defensive side. For the first goal JJ was very narrow when the ball was on the opposite side, but he’s intelligent enough to then break wide as the ball is coming across.

“He got past his man and Rendell likes crosses as we know and he finished it.

“It gives me an opportunity now to play wide men, but at the same time we’ve got to be compact.

“And the one thing we’ve learnt is we can score goals this year. If you look at when we scored three at Ebbsfleet we were very open.

“We still conceded, we were very open, so we might be a little bit more conservative in our approach now.”

The added versatility means the Hatters now have several options of how to break opponents down.

Buckle continued: “I think certainly this season we’ve been renowned for our passing.

“But sometimes it does show you that you can go somewhere like Hereford and pass them off the pitch.

“They barely got out of their half, and OK we created chances but we still didn’t win the game.

“So what I’m trying to say is that maybe now we can offer a couple of different routes to go, in terms of getting the ball up to either (Jon) Shaw or up to Rendell.

“And if you’ve got the pace of a (Stuart) Fleetwood, or the pace of a Gray in behind them it’s very dangerous as well.

“We’re mixing our game up and we done that the other night and it’s something now we know we can do.

“Especially now when you look at the options I’ve got in some wider areas.

“(Lathaniel) Rowe-Turner’s now doing well, it gives me opportunity now to push Howells out on the left or maybe JJ who done very well the other night.

“We are either going to try and pass our way through teams or get the ball into the front, get wide and get crosses in.

“And I think you saw the other night with the cross coming in Rendell is very dangerous.

“So lots of points to play for, lots of games left, still really looking forward to the challenge.”

The changes mean Town’s strikers are also likely to face greater competition for their spots with Gray, Rendell, Shaw and Fleetwood seemingly falling into two made-for-measure partnerships.

Buckle added: “Obviously if we are playing with two strikers and I’ve got four, two are going to miss out.

“That’s pretty obvious. I want to try and get to the situation where we are playing the same team every week.

“That’s what I’d like, I’d dearly like that, but it’s not been easy this season.

“It’s not been easy to find that, for whatever reason, injuries suspensions and trying to break teams down.

“I keep saying it, we’ve found it difficult to get out of this division now for a number of seasons for a reason, it’s not easy.

“It’s not easy to get out of the division so we are working our socks off to try and find the right formula.

“We have done on a number of occasions this season, then we’ve lost one and the frustration can creep in as we know.

“But it’s about remaining calm, remaining focused on the job, and understanding as well that there are other teams facing problems as well and not doing so great.

“If you look at Newport for example, they got knocked out of the FA Cup and they’ve lost a couple of games, so it’s not just us.

“The key for me is to keep our feet on the ground when we’re winning. And we realise now and getting the players understanding what this league is about, and I still keep saying it.

“It’s about set-plays, they play a huge part and it cost us dearly at home (against Dartford). It was nothing other than two nothing balls into our box which we allowed in.

“They never opened us up, they never got round the back of us and we never had shots to save.

“Hopefully now we brush up on that and get a balance between having 6ft players in our team and enough to go and score goals and we’ll get back on a really good run.”